By Ken Tucker
July 19, 2012 at 04:46 PM EDT
Nick Briggs/PBS

You can argue about your favorite snubs (and, sure, Community and Fringe are among mine), but if you look at the entire list of Emmy nominations, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (probably by coincidence and chance) spread a lot of love to many of the right shows and the right stars.

By which I mean, for example, that even if your favorite sitcom didn’t get a best-sitcom nom (Louie!), Louis C.K. picked up actor, writer, and directing nominations. The key achievement this year is that the nominating process managed to find categories for a much wider array of interesting shows, new and old, to acknowledge in some way. And while we can moan about nominations for performers in shows that did not serve them, or us, well (Kathy Bates in Harry’s Law? Again? this past, lumpy season of Dexter for Michael C. Hall? and you know Parks and Recreation deserved Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s slot), there is a lot of new blood among the nominees to be heartened by.

In particular, it was a very good morning if you were a PBS fan (now there‘s a phrase I never thought I’d be writing in the 21st century) or a girl… a girl who happens to be named Lena Dunham and who created Girls. Any nominating year that recognized the excellence in old-fashioned TV-making like Downton Abbey (16 nominations) and Sherlock (13),  and also yet manages to realize that these twenty-something women on HBO are up to something fresh and good, well, that’s what I consider a good Emmy year.

Another girl-trend: While I’m not the biggest fan of New Girl, I’m happy to see the Zooey Deschanel, and Max Greenfield pick up nominations, because its a perfectly good series that adds some new blood to the list. (I also like slightly older blood — Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ — in the Veep nominations. Again, not a show I’d pick over another, superior HBO comedy, Laura Dern and Mike White’s Enlightened, but still, it’s good to have Veep strong attempts at quality recognized.)

Not that I envy any thoughtful Academy member who has to pick a winner in the Supporting Actor Drama categories. In the male division, pitting Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul against Giancarlo Esposito against Mad Men‘s Jared Harris seems almost cruel. And Anna Gunn’s worthy Bad nomination must compete against the likes of Maggie Smith, a showcase Mad Men season for Christina Hendricks Christine Baranski (sorry, error, but wouldn’t Baranski be great on Mad Men?), and previous winner Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife).

Mind you, when it comes time to hand out the awards, I’ll be rooting for Homeland over Downton in most categories, and Game Change would get my support over Hatfields & McCoys. But the fact that Hatfields — atypical History Channel with a shocker of a large viewing audience and fine performances by Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton — managed to rack up 16 nominations means this year’s Emmys are much more of a free-for-all. It’s going to make predicting winners tough, which will only add to the fun.

Twitter: @kentucker

For More: Emmys 2012: And the nominees are…